Khmer Times/Pech Sotheary Wednesday, 11 January 2017 770 views

NGO: youth rape cases on rise

The number of rape cases involving young girls aged between 12 and 17 has increased compared with previous years, according to rights group Licadho.
 

The group sounded the alarm yesterday after compiling all of the complaints it received last year, finding that rape cases were on the rise and the abuse of young girls was still prevalent throughout the country.
 

Nap Somaly, Licadho’s senior women’s and children’s rights monitor, said yesterday that throughout the last 10 months of 2016, the group received 221 complaints concerning the rape of women and children from 14 provinces, with 174 of the cases, or 79 percent, involving girls under the age of 18.
 

In 2015, they only had 170 complaints in total. From 2012 to 2014, Licadho says there were 762 reported rape cases – 537 of them involving victims under 18.
 

“It shows that the rape of girls is still increasing and what we are concerned about is the children who are even younger than one year old who were raped by neighbors or by relatives. What we noticed is that even when the rapes occur, many do not report it,” she said.
 

The factors exacerbating the trend have not been addressed at all she said, pointing to complaints where the parents of victims said they live in remote areas and do not have enough time to care for their children, especially children between the ages of 12 and 15.
 

She told Khmer Times that the 12-15 age group had a high number of rape cases due to a variety of factors including drugs and alcohol, smartphones which allow young people to watch “sexual” videos from an early age, moral and social decline, the government’s failure to enforce the law and insistence on compensation instead of punishment as well as the release of rapists from prison after short sentences.
 

Ros Sopheap, the executive director of Gender and Development for Cambodia, also found that the number of rape cases involving minors was on the rise after meeting with residents in a number of provinces.
 

In some cases, she said, families and victims “do not dare” to report or file complaints because of social stigmas and potential retribution.

 

Many rapes involve close family members, making it difficult for victims to notify police without suffering mentally, socially and economically.
 

“The victims, when it happens to them, can develop mental illnesses,” she said. “They fear, they lack courage, they lose confidence, they lose dignity.
 

“Who is responsible for the development of society if this psychological crisis is increasing?”
 

She asked that the government and relevant authorities strengthen existing mechanisms while beefing up laws and enforcement. Police officials must stop trying to compromise with and assist offenders because the rape of women and children is a serious offense that affects society and the country’s development, she added.
 

Chou Bun Eng, a secretary of state at the Interior Ministry, also expressed concern about the number of rapes involving minors, but denied that the government deserves any blame for the prevalence of the issue.
 

Instead, she claimed the rise in the number of rapes was due to the increase of smartphone use, the spread of social media and a significant decline in “social morality.”
 

All of these factors made it hard for police to prevent rapes, she said.
 

“Current problems and challenges of all kinds of criminal offenses are relevant to a moral social decline. Although there are many laws, it can happen anytime if people have no morality,” she said.
 

“I think the changing mindset of people is the foundation to prevent crimes. We have to re-strengthen social morality and ethics of living in order to prevent this problem.”
 

The Interior Ministry has acknowledged the government’s role in the problem and is working with other ministries to create new laws and find other solutions to the issue, she added.
 

Licadho has spent more than a decade trying to increase awareness about the widespread nature of rape and sexual assault in Cambodia and it has released dozens of reports detailing the impunity afforded to rape suspects.
 

“The government must take steps to ensure that all rape cases are properly investigated and that any obstacles preventing them from proceeding to trial are removed,” Licadho wrote in a report last year.
 

This must include “vigorous prosecution of all cases of sexual violence regardless of the rank, influence or wealth of the perpetrator.”
 

In “Getting Away with It: The Treatment of Rape in Cambodia’s Justice System,” Licadho notes that its findings are similar to those in a report they released more than a decade ago.
 

“It is particularly disturbing to note that, while over 11 years have passed since Licadho’s last report on rape, the issues uncovered have not changed and there seems to have been very little improvement in the situation.”

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